Why mistrust leads to a better society

The re:publica started 9 years ago as a class reunion of the german blogosphere. It evolved into an international conference with a broad range of topics from social media to internet activism, how to podcast and sketchnote, to space travelling. I already saw great international keynotes like the one from the Yes Men in 2014 but this time it was difficult to attend every session I found interest in. So I picked a view the first two days and made my third #rp15 day an international conference day only. Turns out, the sessions I attended were a perfect line up for the actual state of internet activism and for creative examples to reshape the (digital) society. Here are my notes:

Mistrust drives monitorial citizenship

I decided to start with the entry keynote of Ethan Zuckerman on the first day and it was a blast. But the first minutes were difficult and painful. The title of his talk „the system is broken and that’s the good news“ was not at least that provocative as his first slide. It showed a brick with the „I voted“ badge of an american activist.

These words were really thought provoking and a lot of tweets criticized the indirect election boycott. But the internet activist and director of the MIT Center for civic media made a fantastic plot reversal, so to say. He pointed out that mistrust can be highly corrosive, that we live in an golden era of protest and that „politics has been reduced to the art of adjusting to the imperatives of the market“ (Quote by Ivan Krastev). But we can also accept these changes and transform it into an asset. It’s a new wave of what Ethan calls monitorial citizenship, that will bring back the trust of the citizens into the institutions by altering the decision process itself.

He mentioned various projects like the promise tracker in São Paulo, or monithon.it in Italy. With these initiatives the monitoring of the promises of governmental organizations lies in the hands of civilians with smartphones. Diving into the concept of monitorial citizenship, I found Ethans link to an article called cellular citizenship in Nigeria. And this is the perfect bridge to the next part of this blogpost.

10 things Europe can learn from Kenya

This talk on the third day of the re:publica was very delightful and held by three awesome ladies: Martha Chumo, Founder of the Nairobi Dev School, Her geekyness Mugethi Gitau Community Manager at the Nairobi based innovation space iHub and Sheila Birgen, Community Lead at m:Lab East Africa. I must say, I was a bit skeptical about the promise of the headline. I already knew that Twitter is a big thing in Africa and the usage of mobile technology is far more advanced than here in Germany but the examples I witnessed in this talk really blew my mind.

I mean to a german bureaucrat this would be a true nightmare but for the department of immigration services in Kenya this is day to day business. Stunning. But I also learned about the high-performance usage of the mobile devices in Kenya. Street food owners that are running their complete billing system with an old Nokia cell phone, and chieftains of villages who look after their citizens through tweets and text messages. Even crimes like kidnapped children are approached directly via mobile and of course the monitoring of the promises of governmental organizations is in the hands of civilians with cell phones too.


The combination of highly provocative thoughts and first hand experiences of makers and hackers is the compelling mixture of this conference. These two sessions really changed my mind on a lot of things. Thank you dear re:publica Team and thank you dear Media Convention Team for this great experience and special thanks to Geraldine and Max for the global innovation gathering. Looking forward to the next year.

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